In Seattle, not too far from where I often petsit, there is a place best described as a curiosity shop, with all sorts of strange and bizarre objects of art and imagination. Benoit Paire is often discussed as an object you would find in a curiosity shop, but of course, he is a living, breathing, complicated human being underneath the mask of his emotions and the fluctuations we so often see in his level of play.
Is Benoit Paire often impatient? Oui. Is he often an example of how to NOT handle pressure? Oui. Yet, as with nearly every athlete, impatience isn’t necessarily reflective of a distaste for battle, but an inability to solve the problems associated with the conflict and tension of sports. The DESIRE to solve problems is there; manifesting the right mindset and finding the right path to victory are elusive at this heightened level of competition.
This past week in Marrakech, the formula emerged, and once Benoit Paire found it, he didn’t lose it.
Paire rolled past Pablo Andujar in Sunday’s final to win his second ATP Tour title. Everything worked for Paire, as he completed his triumphant week in Morocco.
Yet, while everything went right for Paire on Sunday, the bigger story of this championship is how well Paire competed when in trouble, which has constantly been his Achilles heel.
It all started in round one against Aljaz Bedene. Paire lost the first set decisively and had to decide, on a Tuesday, if he wanted to stick around for the rest of the week.
He found the tunnel vision which has so often eluded him in his career and battled back to win sets two and three with a tight 4-and-5 scoreline.
We said this about Roger Federer over Radu Albot in Miami. Though Marrakech is worth 750 fewer points than Miami, the dynamics of this tournament played out much as they did in Florida: A man who overcame a rough first match used that escape as jet fuel for a surge over the next several days, all the way to the title. Most of Paire’s matches, including Sunday’s final against Andujar, were smooth and turbulence-free.
However, Paire did get whacked in the first set of Saturday’s semifinal against Jo-Wilfried Tsonga. He once again ran into the challenge of having to reset the dial in the middle of a match and sustain a high level of play if he wanted to get to the finish line. He did. The memory of the Bedene fightback served him well, but he had to access that memory in a positive way in order to derive benefit from it.
The Benoit benefit was his own mind. He did the work. He made use of an important moment on a Tuesday, riding it into Saturday and lifting a trophy on Sunday.
This isn’t a curiosity object; this is a man who has won a second ATP title. Good for Benoit Paire, an example of fighting through frustration and settling into a tunnel-vision level of clarity.
All pros can learn from this example, all the way to an ATP trophy.